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Legal challenge for King of eSwatini’s change of country’s name

King Mswati III’s name change for his country is facing a legal challenge from the human rights activist and attorney, Thulani Maseko, through the Institute for Democracy and Leadership, in the kingdom.

In a High Court submission, Maseko argued that the King’s decision “undermined the constitution” and “was a waste of money, especially in a country with the world’s highest HIV/AIDS rate,” according to a report from IOL.

Maseko stated, “Every citizen has a right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives.” This remark was made when the activist requested that the court set aside the decision by the monarch as he did not give the public any say.

The Attorney General’s Office was named in the submission to the court, but they have not yet responded to the matter that Maseko said “goes to the heart of [Swaziland’s] rule of law.”

In April of this year, the King renamed Swaziland to the Kingdom of eSwatini, which means “land of the Swazis” in Swazi. The Kingdom of eSwatini was the name of the African nation before the British colonised it in the early 1900s.

His Majesty announced the change during celebrations for both his birthday and the 50th anniversary of gaining independence from the British in 1968.

The King explained that the name Swaziland had caused confusion around the world as the African nation had been referred to as Switzerland on more than one occasion.

Mswati is Africa’s last reigning absolute monarch and has referred to the country as eSwatini several times in the past. Notably, the King used the name when he addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2017.

At the time of the announcement of the change, BBC’s Southern African Correspondent, Nomsa Maseko reported that the change angered some in the kingdom “who believe the king should focus more on the nation’s sluggish economy.”

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